Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Decade After 9/11: We've Become What We Loathe

Chris Hedges
September 11, 2011.

Because few cared to examine our activities in the Muslim world, the attacks became certified as incomprehensible by the state and its lap dogs, the press. Those who carried out the attacks were branded as rising out of a culture and religion that was at best primitive and probably evil. The Quran—although it forbids suicide as well as the murder of women and children—was painted as a manual for fanaticism and terror. The attackers embodied the titanic clash of civilizations, the cosmic battle under way between good and evil, the forces of light and darkness. Images of the planes crashing into the towers and heroic rescuers emerging from the rubble were played and replayed. We were deluged with painful stories of the survivors and victims. The deaths and falling towers became iconographic. The ceremonies of remembrance were skillfully hijacked by the purveyors of war and hatred. They became vehicles to justify doing to others what had been done to us. And as innocents died here, soon other innocents began to die in the Muslim world. A life for a life. Murder for murder. Death for death. Terror for terror.

What was played out in the weeks after the attacks was the old, familiar battle between force and human imagination, between the crude instruments of violence and the capacity for empathy and understanding. Human imagination lost. Coldblooded reason, which does not speak the language of the imagination, won. We began to speak and think in the empty, mindless nationalist clichés about terror that the state handed to us. We became what we abhorred. The deaths were used to justify pre-emptive war, invasion, Shock and Awe, prolonged occupation, targeted assassinations, torture, offshore penal colonies, gunning down families at checkpoints, massive aerial bombardments, drone attacks, missile strikes and the killing of dozens and soon hundreds and then thousands and later tens of thousands and finally hundreds of thousands of innocent people. We produced piles of corpses in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and extended the reach of our killing machine to Yemen and Somalia. And by beatifying our dead, by cementing into the national psyche fear and the imperative of permanent war, and by stoking our collective humiliation, the state carried out crimes, atrocities and killings that dwarfed anything carried out against us on 9/11. The best that force can do is impose order. It can never elicit harmony. And force was justified, and is still justified, by the first dead. Ten years later these dead haunt us like Banquo’s ghost.

Read the rest here.

Comment: Hedges has written a thoughtful and principled rejection of the ultra-nationalist symbolism of 9/11.  I expect that his critique does not sit well with many Americans and others who need the simplicity of an "us and them" dialectic to live and do so in blissful ignorance.

Though I see much of what he is arguing I wonder why he insists on using terms like "the Muslim world".  Surely he must be aware that Muslims live everywhere and there is no such place where the world is neatly divided into an "us and them" binary.

I tried to miss the all-day coverage of the 9/11 ceremonies that were held a couple of days ago.  What I did catch was troubling.  A security expert on CNN, for example, said that just because there was no terrorist attack on the day did not mean "the bad guys were resting".

The "bad guys"?  And no one questioned her on this simplistic construction of a binary of evil.  No-one could stop Bush from invading Iraq and lying about WMDs because Saddam was the part of the "bad guys".

In the few minutes that I watched 9/11 live coverage I saw a Harley Davidson cavalcade ride past folks with huge American flags somewhere close to Ground Zero.

What is it about folks who ride Harleys and the fixation on nationalist symbolism?  These folks draw the Harley lifestyle as a counter culture and yet for all that posturing they are merely replicating the narrative of the elitist state.

I guess if you can afford a piece of antiquated crap like a Harley you cannot exactly be poor.  Here in the 'rainbow delusion' it is not uncommon to see the same mindless kind of idiots decked in Harley paraphernalia, even American flags, and playing dress-up for the empire delusions that underscore Harley popular culture.

And Tony you thought I was anti-Harley only because it is a dinosaur of a motorcycle.  Not so.  The Harley is a whiteness symbol and a crude extension of American nationalist ignorance and faux triumphalism.

But that is how America works.  It cannot just be without selling versions of itself - reasserting itself continuously to suppress a counter reality or consciousness.

9/11 and its commemoration and memorialization is another such case.  So don't be too surprised the next time you see some fool on a Harley flying a POW/MIA flag and a 9/11 flag alongside the star and stripes.

It is all one seamless ultra-nationalist pathology that is underscored by American exceptionalism and racism.



Tony said...

My definition of a flag (I think that you can find a much better way of encapsulating my definition):"An instrument used by governments to (willingly??) send you to kill or be killed and do all manner of other dirty work that they don't want to sully their hands with."

Anonymous said...

Ive been reading your crap for the last day or so. You almost sound like a real academic. Stop giving Mooi Sh**

Ridwan said...

Hey there Tony:

I agree with your assessment.

Nationalism is such a shallow manipulation of reality.

There are a whole grip of folks who will go "over there" to fight for the flag/constitution and do so without a clue about the politics on the ground.

Symbols however cannot just be dismissed as folly - if only for the dire circumstances that follow.

Thank you my brother for your comment.

Peace boet,

Ridwan said...

Really anonymous? Don't you have better things to do than troll my blog in defense of Mooi?

That man can fight his own battles unless of course you are his daddy (or the Guru of course).



Lauren said...

anonymous is an absolute ass.